IEEE Cases 1999 - Using Other People's Software


A fictionalized case about an employee who was discharged for bringing attention to the company practice of using pirated software.


Jim Warren was a senior software systems expert, hired by NewSoft, a start-up company, to help in the development of a new product. He soon learned that the product was based on proprietary software for which NewSoft did not have a license. Jim assumed that this was some sort of mistake and spoke to the company president about the matter. He was assured that the situation would be rectified. But time passed and nothing happened except that Jim found other instances of the same practice. Repeated efforts to get NewSoft to legalize its operations failed and Jim, after threatening to notify the victimized companies, was discharged.

Law enforcement officials were brought into the picture and lawyers on all sides began negotiating. At this date it is not clear whether criminal charges will be filed. There appears to be a strong possibility of some sort of out-of-court settlement among the companies involved. It is not clear how this will ultimately affect Jim Warren.


Author: Stephen H. Unger, Columbia University.

Presented at the OEC International Conference on Ethics in Engineering and Computer Science, March 1999.

Stephen H. Unger. . IEEE Cases 1999 - Using Other People's Software. Online Ethics Center. DOI:.